Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Alter Christus and Me: A Tale of Victory, Friendship, and God’s Great Goodness

Halfway through a game of Trivial Pursuit the other night I was struck by the infinite goodness of God, which was a most uncommon feeling for me given the circumstances. I didn’t attribute the feeling to my unlikely domination of the competition thanks to a delicate mix of heat stroke and exhaustion in my husband and brother-in-law. No, that feeling was a euphoric wave of glory, unholy pride, and disbelief at my good luck. No, this sensation was different, a deep peace and unspeakable joy that rested deep in my soul. It wasn’t related to the game but had everything to do with my teammate, our dear friend who also happens to be a holy priest of God.

As we mulled over which country had been home to the world’s first brewery, agreed immediately upon the name that had come from the Polynesian word owhyhee, and exchanged glances as one of our opponents, red and brown from the sun and sunk deep in our couch with sore feet on the coffee table, answered “the Great Wall” in response to a question about a nineteenth century building project, I was overcome with gratitude for the mercy of God.

My teammate was an alter Christus. That morning he had spoken the words of consecration and now he was laughing with us about geography. He had held the precious body of Christ in his hands and now he was reading from our Trivial Pursuit cards. His soul carries on it a unique priestly mark that identifies him as another Christ and he is our friend!

Because not only did Christ give Himself to us in the sacraments, His Body to feed us, His grace to wash away our sins, baptize souls, and heal the sick, but He gave Himself to us through His beloved priests. 

In the papal encyclical Mediator Dei Pope Pius XII writes, “For they alone, in answer to an inward supernatural call, have entered the august ministry, where they are assigned to service in the sanctuary and become, as it were, the instruments God uses to communicate supernatural life from on high to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Add to this, as We have noted above, the fact that they alone have been marked with the indelible sign ‘conforming’ them to Christ the Priest, and that their hands alone have been consecrated ‘in order that whatever they bless may be blessed, whatever they consecrate may become sacred and holy, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Let all, then, who would live in Christ flock to their priests. By them they will be supplied with the comforts and food of the spiritual life. From them they will procure the medicine of salvation assuring their cure and happy recovery from the fatal sickness of their sins. The priest, finally, will bless their homes, consecrate their families and help them, as they breathe their last, across the threshold of eternal happiness.”

Yes, priests act in persona Christi in the sacraments and not at Trivial Pursuit. But they always carry with them their priestly mark and therefore are always a special reflection of the Lord. I need to receive Jesus in the sacraments to survive and grow in my vocation as wife and mother, and those are unique moments of intimacy on which my soul depends. But sometimes in His infinite goodness God draws near and warms my home in the familiar smiles and beloved laughs of our priest friends. And these special gifts of His presence never fail to manifest to me His breathtaking generosity.

As I waved goodbye to our dear friend as he left, I felt the usual waves of warmth and joy well up inside, gratitude for the beautiful gift of our friend. I turned and gave my beloved husband a giant hug. And I was just so happy. And it had nothing at all to do with my crushing victory. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Best-Sourced: A Foodie Afternoon

My husband and I would be insufferable foodies were it not for our children. 

We really love food.  And wine and beer and cocktails and coffee and pretty much everything else that you can imbibe.  We look forward to the weekend edition of the Sunday paper that has fancy recipes from fancy restaurants.  Some of the fondest memories we have from our time in Rome were meals.  And I read food blogs. 

God in His infinite mercy, though, sent us four children in five-and-a-half years whose cute little tummies have made our grocery bills double from when we were first married, resulting in our extreme gratitude at having a discount grocer down the street from us.  We sip their $2.79 bottles of wine at dinner and pretend that that block of swiss is really Gruyere.  I make near-miss renditions of recipes from my mom’s old issues of Bon Appetit for my husband and those little faces around the table, and we wouldn’t have it any other way...until I see someone with a bag from the beautiful grocery store with carpet and then I have to fight down a mighty wave of envy and bad thoughts.

The Good Lord smiled on us last week, though, and sent us two tickets from a friend to the local brewery’s annual beer and burger celebration.  The nicest restaurants in town would have stations in the brewery’s beer garden and would offer mini versions of their most popular burgers and a mini local beer to go with it.  He also sent us a babysitter and we zoomed out of the driveway and were there in minutes.

It smelled like a summer dream: a thick cloud of grill smoke hung low over the expansive event site.  A very local and very green event, we were given a biodegradable tray and a mini beer glass to keep along with tickets good for a burger and beer from three different stands.  My husband and I glanced at each other: we were in foodie heaven, and we couldn’t believe our good fortune.  We quickly got down to work.

The first burger we tried was called the Beercuzzi and was a patty dipped in an aged cheddar and beer sauce topped with homemade pickles.  It was paired with a pale ale.  We took our burgers and beers and carefully wheeled the stroller around a maze of sandals until we found a nice spot on a bench next to a small group of women.  In true foodie fashion, we took pictures of the burgers and of us eating the burgers and of the description of the burgers to post on Facebook later.
Our next burger was a pork patty topped with barbeque sauce, cheddar, bacon and barbeque aioli, pickled onion, a cider vinegar reduction and what looked like mini pork rinds.  It was delicious and they were served with little glasses of honey ale and oatmeal stout.  The afternoon sun shown pleasantly down on us, and the baby was delighted with his outing, eventually falling asleep in the sweet scent of grilled meat.

As we were deciding what our third choice would be—we were eyeing up the burger topped with pickled garlic beer braised cherries, SarVecchio, and micro-arugula--I remembered that our little guy was due for his own dinner, so I scooped him up and put him on my lap. 

The woman next to me turned and started asking about the baby.  I held my breath, wondering how long into the questions she would become horrified about our life.  Would it be his name?  “How lovely,” she replied graciously.  What number he was?  “He’s our fourth,” I answered, and I think her eyebrows might have shot up a little, but she kept smiling sweetly.  Meanwhile, an endless stream of people passed by, college students, young adults, older couples, all free spirits with their own sense of style.  It wasn’t them, though, who made her gasp. It was us.  “How old are your children?” she asked. 

I told her.

There it was.  She gasped, clamped a hand over her mouth, let out a shocked laugh and said, “Oh my gosh!  That’s like having a day care in your house…ALL THE TIME!”  She laughed again and I did, too, because it is like having our own daycare, except the pay is awful, and like she pointed out, the children never leave.   Then she looked at me gravely and said, “How do you do it?”

I tried not to skip a beat but I was nervous.  I wanted to credit God because I wouldn’t have survived ten minutes of motherhood without Him, but I feel like I never quite get it right in exchanges like this.  I decided to say, “With God’s love and a huge pot of coffee,” and smiled.  She smiled, too, and then graciously turned back to her friends when I started feeding the baby.

My heart was pounding.  I was grateful for the courage to answer honestly, if not a little lamely.  When I came back with our cherry-and-arugula-topped burgers, the lady had left.

After some reflection, though, I think I could’ve given a more appropriate response.  When she asked how I managed, I should’ve said, “It’s because of what I eat...”  (And, no, I wouldn’t have mentioned shopping at the discount grocery store—that would’ve been too upsetting for everyone.)  But maybe after the third mini beer I would’ve had the courage to say, “...the Holy Eucharist.” 

Because only the Best-Sourced will do when it comes to food.  And I think she would’ve agreed.